Markets report: QE and furlough extensions lift FTSE

What happened to the FTSE, pound and UK companies on the markets today?

Monetary stimulus to cushion Britain’s economy boosted London stocks yesterday, while traders kept an eagle eye on Joe Biden edging closer to victory.

The Bank of England raised its quantitative easing target by £150bn to £895bn, beating expectations, to help the Government fund public spending in a second lockdown.

In some upward pressure, the pound rose 0.9pc.

The domestically focused FTSE 250 gained 0.7pc as Chancellor Rishi Sunak extended the furlough scheme.

Traders remained positive on the tight US election results race, as the Democrats looked set for a narrow first place and the incumbent president Donald Trump pursued legal action against the vote.

A handful of states are expected to decide the result.

London’s blue-chip FTSE 100 rose 0.4pc, lifted by RSA Insurance Group. It soared 45.7pc to 670p – the biggest gainer on the index by far.

The insurer reported a rise in underwriting profit and revised down its estimate of the total costs related to pandemic claims yesterday morning, but its shares didn’t take off until the final minutes of trading when Bloomberg reported that RSA had received a £7bn cash bid.

Shortly after the market closed RSA confirmed it was in talks over a takeover proposal at 685p a share, “that may or may lead to an offer”.

Banking giant Lloyds shed 2.8pc to 27.71p a day after it announced another 730 job cuts, as it looks to cut more costs.

However, the key drag on the blue-chip index was engine maker Rolls-Royce, which shed 11.2pc to 74.52p, after announcing 1,400 job cuts.

Supermarket chain Sainsbury’s slipped, by 5.2pc to 198p, after it reported a first-half pre-tax loss and warned of 3,500 job cuts.

The FTSE 100 supermarket chain vowed to close 420 Argos stores, but will still hand a £231m dividend payout to investors.

Elsewhere, Hikma Pharmaceuticals dropped 0.7pc despite raising its full-year generics revenue estimates from a range of $710m (£540m) to $730m, to $720m to $740m.

Pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca edged up just 0.2pc to 55.75p as it beat revenue forecasts but fell short on profit.

Its sales rose 3pc to $6.6bn during the third quarter, while profit before tax came in at $805m.

Auto distributor Inchcape jumped 6.6pc after a stronger-than-expected recovery in the third quarter from operations in the UK and Europe. Group revenues still declined 19pc from July to September, to £1.9bn.

Rail ticketing app Trainline shot up 12.5pc to 307.2p, despite reporting a £43m loss due to the pandemic. JP Morgan upgraded the FTSE 250 firm to “overweight”.